Tampax Pearl Tampons and Demographics

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Tampons have grown in popularity worldwide as a discrete and convenient way to manage one’s period despite the taboo found both in Western and non-Western cultures surrounding having open conversations about managing periods. The production of tampons involves various intervening parties beyond the manufacturers such as shipping companies and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The production sites, people and entities involved in the tampon’s production, financial and cultural obstacles surrounding tampons, and relation to globalization from both a cultural and economic standpoint all coincide to bring tampons to the consumer. The parent company of Tampax Procter and Gamble has one factory in Auburn, Maine that is the sole supplier of tampons to North America (“Procter and Gamble” 2012).

Recently, however, they have expanded their production to Budapest, Hungary to meet the increasing demand for tampons over other menstrual hygiene products in Europe (“Procter and Gamble” 2012). The finished product as purchased by American consumers is manufactured as a final product within the U.S. but has components coming from an undisclosed business partner in Germany that supplies the cellulose based fiber that composes the “absorbent core”, the thin fabric encasing the core, as well as the string attached to the core (“Procter and Gamble” 2012, “Tampax Tampon Ingredients” 2018). Additionally, the German company sources the tree fibers from local farmers who supply the plant material such as that of low-maintenance plants like eucalyptus which can be grown in various climates because of its durable nature (“Fiber Production” 2018). From the plants the workers and technicians extract the pulp, introduce it to a stripping process in which the cellulose is extracted and from there able to be formed into a fiber to be shipped by sea to the U.S. factory or by land to the Hungarian factory for its European production (“Fiber Production” 2018).

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Although Tampax nor Procter and Gamble publicly disclose who their German partner is there are multiple, such as German fabric company Lenzing, that can be ruled out because of a part of their production sequence that utilizes bleach to strip the cellulose from the pulp (“Fiber Production” 2018, “Menstrual Tampons and Pads” 2005). This is based on the product promises of safety and environmental sustainability by Procter and Gamble in their “Ambition 2030” environmental sustainability goal report. The FDA has loose disclosure regulations on how detailed the ingredient lists on menstrual product packaging has to be and even looser regulations on how much information must be disclosed about the materials that come from companies not based in the U.S., like Tampax’s German partner (“Menstrual Tampons and Pads” 2005). Tampax claims to avoid using chlorine bleach materials in any of its products but concedes that “bleaching” is a vague term in product manufacturing as it is defined as “the technical term for fiber cleaning and purification” (“Tampax Tampons Ingredients” 2018).

However, this leaves large areas of the tampon production process up to Procter and Gamble to judge how ethical and sustainable their production processes are. Additionally, these ambiguous explanations of product terminology reflect the cautious side-stepping cultures developed by major trans-national corporations like Procter and Gamble to avoid the criticisms of overly synthetic products that are becoming increasingly frowned upon because of a shifting attitude toward favoring consumer and environmental consciousness over product convenience. However, it must be acknowledged that Procter and Gamble have made consistent strides towards environmental sustainability by adopting “alternative energy” over fossil fuels which has contributed to the overall 14 percent of U.S. electricity demands being supplied by sources such as wind turbines, solar panels, and geothermal energy (Snarr, 328; “Sustainability” 2010).

Further, Tampax has committed to transitioning towards sustainable packaging as 96 percent of their packaging worldwide is recyclable; this sustainability is greatest in the Middle East, Europe, and Asia where 95 percent of cartons are made of recycled carton board (“Our Responsible Packaging” 2018). Although the U.S. is the home country of the Tampax brand, there is more recycled packaging in foreign consumers’ countries; this highlights the issue of the U.S. being a leading product consumer and waste producer but failing to lead the charge in domestic sustainability despite demonstrating a clear ability to do so as Procter and Gamble has with its Auburn factory and packaging of products abroad (Snarr, 318; “Our Responsible Packaging” 2018). Consumer attitudes towards tampons is facing new grounds as global conversations about women and their menstrual cycles shift towards normalization and increased education and awareness about women’s health. The need for feminine hygiene during a menstrual period is a universal demand made by all people who endure periods but culture has a heavy impact on whether or not a Tampax tampon is an accessible and acceptable form of necessary self-care.

Although Tampax tampons are sold in over 100 countries in the Asian Pacific, North America, Latin America, and Europe, there is still a strong social and cultural resistance stemming from the taboo nature of menstruation in parts of Africa, the Middle-East, and East Asia (“It’s Not Just the Tampon Tax” 2018). This leads into the financial issue surrounding tampons as they are subjected to sales tax in over thirty U.S. states where there are heavy debates that these are necessary hygiene products and they should not be taxed because it decreases accessibility to lower-income women who just like wealthy women menstruate (“It’s Not Just the Tampon Tax” 2018). Fortunately for myself and the other women of Florida, the Florida government has rolled back the sales tax placed on menstrual products, therefore increasing accessibility of these necessary products to women of lower economic statuses or people like myself who are in college and want to spare every penny possible when shopping. The issue of accessibility to tampons stretches beyond the U.S. borders to countries such as China where less than 1 percent of women use tampons as opposed to menstrual pads due to the stigma surrounding making a woman less clean or pure when using such a product (“Only 1%” 2017). Procter and Gamble is seeking to expand their Tampax Pearl consumer base to the 1.3 billion people in China to increase revenue and promote a general acceptance of menstruation as a normal phenomenon (“Only 1%” 2018).

This mission of Procter and Gamble furthers the idea of “placelessness” in products that have originated in the West and diffused to various cultural regions with the intent of convenience and not the goal of eliminating traditional practices and beliefs (Steger, 86). From Germany the fiber is shipped to the U.S. factory where production lines will condense the fabrics into the tampon form and apply the plastic applicator and plastic cover which will all then be placed into a package to be shipped via semi-truck to retailers such as Target, Publix, CVS Pharmacy, and Walgreens. It is through the cashier that I am connected to the person who stocked the feminine products’ shelf, the truck unloading crew, the truck drivers who transported the packages from the Auburn factory, the production line team working in the factory, the executives of Tampax who coordinate business with the German rayon fiber producers, the nautical freight system that transports the rayon from Germany to the U.S., the technical employees of the German fabric factory, the personnel responsible for shipping the plants from the farms to the factory, and the local German farmers partnered with the company to supply them with the trees for fiber production.

Where the Tampax Pearl tampon has become a benign staple in the lives of many women in the U.S. it is still faced with the resistance from cultural regions and societies who view the tampon as dangerous to the purity of a woman and even wielding the power of “deflowering” a woman (“Tampons?” 2018). In the U.S. a box of Tampax tampons can be found and purchased right off the shelf of nearly any major grocery store, drugstore, gas station, or pharmacy. Contrastingly, countries such as Lebanon require the consumer to actively seek out tampons in pharmacies where they must be bought over the counter from a pharmacist (“Tampons?” 2018). This orthodox resistance to the tampon is widespread and Procter and Gamble continues to pursue the expansion of their Tampax tampon empire to maintain their stake as the largest and highest revenue generating menstrual product company in the world as of 2011 with Tampax holding a 46 percent market share in the tampon industry (“Procter and Gamble” 2012).

The efforts of Procter and Gamble to become a fully global producer of its Tampax tampons has been displayed through both marketing techniques promoting an active lifestyle for women and sex education focusing on hygiene and the safe use of feminine hygiene products (“China” 2016; “Building Girls’ Confidence” 2018). All of the underlying controversy of tampons does not cross my mind when I go to check out a box at my local convenience store, rather that this is just another item that I need to the same degree that I need shampoo, food items, and clothing. However, the inaccessibility of tampons globally does invade my thoughts when I experience a shortage myself and experience brief panic until I can restock; forcing me to recognize that this is a necessary item for menstruating women all over the world and many of them do not have equal access to these items or they detest them as reinforcing “Western norms and lifestyle[s]” and impeding on their traditional rituals surrounding menstruation and feminine spaces as traditionally unspoken of (Steger, 82).

The Tampax tampon reflects the impact of technology on culture and the shifting roles of women worldwide as we can no longer put our lives academics, careers, familial responsibilities on hold for a week’s time to get through a natural bodily process. From eucalyptus plants to the discretely portable feminine hygiene product, the Tampax tampon continues to transcend the cultural bounds defined within the global imaginary to provide a common thread of progress for women worldwide. It is a reminder that globalization continues to grip entire demographics in this case predominantly women and intensify and accelerate product consumption on a global and glocal scale at a rate that cannot be fully stopped nor contained but merely curtailed and temporarily halted by cultural norms (Steger, 16).

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Tampax Pearl Tampons and Demographics. (2019, Mar 05). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/tampax-pearl-tampons-and-demographics/